I’m in beautiful Kansas City this week for a yearbook adviser’s workshop. Yes, i volunteered to take on the yearbook at Emerald Ridge, Facets. It’s a great opportunity, and having experience as a newspaper adviser should help. But the two styles are different, so I decided to take the trip and the help offered by our publisher when it was offered.
This should actually be Kansas City Day 2, but Day 1, the day of traveling doom was simply too awful to write about. Let’s just say I got here after seven hours of travel instead of three and it included the words: airport closed, tornado warnings and Oklahoma City. In any case, I stumbled into my hotel room at about 8:30, had a late dinner and a lousy gin and tonic, and tried to follow the debacle that is the Seattle Mariners until it was too late for them to be saved.
My conference actually starts today in an hour or so. So I got up at about 7:30 (which is 5:30 Seattle time and kind of late for me,) I also decided to use the morning to see something in Kansas City, and there are actually several things I wanted to get to if possible. On the shuttle ride in from the airport last night, one of the passengers mentioned the WW I museum in Kansas City, and what a great museum it is. I got directions, and was informed it was a bit of a hike, but doable. I figured that, heck, I’m a walker, no problem.
I’m staying at the Hotel Phillips which is kind of right downtown and the museum and Liberty Tower are something over a mile away. I dunno how much more, but more. The weather was also deceivingly warm and muggy when I left. But I made it there in about 30 minutes. It was described as hilly by the hotel folks, but as a person who has walked a lot in places like Seattle and San Francisco, they don’t know from hills
The National World War I Museum is spectacularly gorgeous and is carved out of the hill holding the Victory Tower and two beautiful structures on the what seems to be the highest hill in Kansas City. The museum opens at 10 and admission is $14. Visitors can also rent a “talking tour” of the exhibit for $5. I passed on the talking tour, not knowing how much time I really had, and believing I might know more than many visitors that could use the guidance.
I began with the movie about the road to WWI. More about the movies later, but it’s about 15 minutes and worth the time. Then it was on to the exhibits. There’s a lot of stuff there. Artillery pieces, machine guns, rifles, grenades and uniforms, equipage, etc. Lurking behind it all is an effort to help the visitor gain an insight into trench life, that unfortunately fails because the amount of stuff simply overwhelms it. The visitor can see life size dioramas of the trenches, but can’t actually go into them, touch it or experience it.
The exhibits are divided into two sections, one on the war 1914-17 and a second half focusing on American involvement. Again lots of stuff, with an effort to involve all Americans (women and minorities) in the story-telling. The two exhibits are connected with another interesting diorama of the trenches and another movie sharing America’s role in the war before 1917 and the difficult decision to go to war.
In all, the museum is well worth seeing. The considerable number and types of artifacts can be overwhelming. However, the two movies the museum shared this morning were quite good. They address the era and pressures to go to war from a position of complexity parallel to current scholarship, as well as the variety of views about the war in the United States as the events of 1917 sucked this country toward an inevitable decision to enter the conflict. They could have done a bit more about the country’s lack of preparedness and the “war madness” that gripped the nation, but overall the museum gets high marks. Worth a visit if you’re in Kansas City